Saturday, July 16, 2016

10 great questions to ask your kids

10 Fabulous Questions To Get Your Kids Chatting
by Lizzy Smith for Divorced Moms                   
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July 09, 2016
road trip2.jpg

I have two daughters who I love more than life itself. I (almost always) love spending time with them. Because when we do, and it's just us, we have some fascinating chats. We get to bond and get to know each other better. The trust factor increases and, generally, so does the "like" factor. Our favorite places to have these chats are generally at a great restaurant or in the car. It's one of the reasons I purchased another season of ski passes for them-- because our drive up to our favorite ski resort in Park City, Utah is 45 minutes of "us" time-- no distractions, electronics must be put away, we talk, we listen to music. It's one of my favorite times of our entire week. I also love a good road trip when it's just the three of us, exploring somewhere new and, yes, talking.

Not long ago, I attended a parenting class that was fantastic. As part of this class, we were given 10 open-ended, probing questions to ask our kids that would help ascertain the condition of their hearts. How are they really doing inside their heads? How are they processing their world? How loved, secured and supported do they feel from me? And there were questions that would help us delve into those meaty topics. I a sharing these questions with you and adding/tweaking them to fit my parenting style and concerns.

First, I did not ask all of these questions at once. It was more like one question per week. I would ask the question, and we would dialog it. Yes, I really listened to them. And over the course of the next, say, week or so, we would come back to these questions.

1. How is your heart?

This question can be rather open-ended. And when I asked them, I offered up very few clues as to what I even meant. I was basically asking how they felt inside-- grateful, angry, forgiving, optimistic... But this is the information I was really looking for. Were they struggling with friendships, adult relationships, depression, or did they have unrealized needs that were not being met. I started this one off myself.

How was my heart? At that time, it was felt with extreme gratefulness. I was alive. I had survived some pretty terrible medical treatments. I was slowly getting stronger and better. While I wasn't yet strong enough to ski with them, I was able to take them up to the slopes and sit in a coffee shop writing while they skied. I was able to make future vacation plans (Costa Rica was coming up!). But I also felt incredible anger and sorrow. How did I get sick in the first place? How was this fair to them? What if something happened to me? I kept these fears silent. Perhaps there was a time for it, but it wasn't then.

2. What do you worry about most?

Game On! I'm back and ready to FIGHT

Game On! After An Epic Meltdown, I've Come Back Swinging
by Lizzy Smith for Divorced Moms                   
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July 16, 2016
boxer.pngLast week, I got some frightening news. A new drug that I started taking to keep my cancer markers in check had failed. My blood work was wonky. And I had a total meltdown. I sat in my oncologist's office looking shell-shocked as we discussed Plan B-- a new drug cocktail.

And that is my life since discovering that I had multiple myeloma in January 2012, a blood cancer. I am always on some sort of treatment combo and the side effects can range from almost nothing to intense fatigue and everything in between. I've always stayed positive (yes, pretty much ALWAYS, with very few exceptions) in this battle. I will win it. I will not succumb. My treatments might suck at times, I need a lot of patience, but I'll be ok.

Except Monday. I wasn't feeling anything positive. In fact, what I did feel was total panic and fear. And for the first time since that pivotal diagnosis, I started taking anti-anxiety medications. I started out with one Xanax. And then two. And then I moved on to Ativan, and then another, and another. By the time the day was nearly over, I was in a stupor. Because without those pills, I could not overcome one wave of massive anxiety after the next. I felt like I was having a heart attack. I wanted to RUN. But where would I go? And what would that change? I needed to confront my situation and somehow ... survive it.

I thought about all the articles I've written about combatting stress and anxiety. Baths with Epsom salts. Essential oils. Massage. A hike up a beautiful canyon. A lunch with my girlfriends... NONE of those would have worked and, honestly, at that moment, I felt so arrogant and stupid. How could I tell anyone to stay off medications and take a bath instead? How innocent and un-relatable I must have sounded to those in the throws of true depression or suffering from PTSD.

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Saturday, July 9, 2016

I had severe anxiety yesterday. And I popped (many) pills

Throughout my myeloma battle, I have to admit that I've been quite the brave, amazing, fearless warrior. A rock star. Go.Fight.WIN!!!! And when I have a bad day, I'd go... get a massage, take a hike, go on a fabulous trip, or buy some new clothes. Whatever. I was a MYELOMA SURVIVOR and, heck, I DESERVED everything I wanted RIGHT THAT MINUTE.

And then there was Thursday, learning that my numbers, while declining (I thought was a GREAT thing???), could not mean anything at all. It could mean... relapse, refractory, response to Daratumumab, or whatever in between (take your pick). Sure, new meds and new protocols are available and all this can be expected in this long journey... but I AM TIRED OF THINKING ABOUT MYELOMA.

And I had a SEVERE anxiety attack, actually, one anxiety attack after another. They came in rolls. One would stop, the next one kicked in. It felt...

-like I couldn't breathe
-like I was having a heart attack
-I was in the middle of a nightmare for which there was no escape
-I wanted to crawl out of my skin and go somewhere else and hide (this was impossible and fixes nothing anyway)
-I wanted to just... be... nothingness. (Not suicidal, but I needed it to vanish, to disappear, to be someone else, with someone else's problems.)

So I pulled out my trusty Ativan. And I took one. Then two. Then four.

And I called my doctor's office, which prescribed me something with a Z and I took that, too. And then I took another. And, wow, was I pill drunk. It felt... good? Calming? These Mormons have it right. They won't drink beer or wine but, hey, as long as they're prescribed narcotics, it's just FINE!!! Swollow-away, you righteous minion! Pills have their advantages-- fewer calories. No puking. Same effect. AND HEALTH INSURANCE CUTS DOWN ON THE COSTS!

I texted my PA at my doctor's office to say that the labs that I was due for on Sunday? Not showing up. Because I don't feel like it. Because I am TIRED of hearing about myeloma. All I want to do is crawl in a ball and hide and swallow pills, which don't do as great a job as I might hope (hey, I was still coherent enough, gosh dangit, to have that conversation, though my words were quite slurred). And wow, that really freaked her out. She wanted to call the police because she thought I was suicidal. NO I AM NOT, I wanted to SCREAM. I am pill-drunk. And I am fatigued of FOUR YEARS of living in Myeloma Hell and I am tired of them, too.

Last night, the girls and I slept at my parents' home. Actually, I passed out cold on my parents' couch. My hubby, Bill, is rushing home from Seattle where he was at for a week for the birth of his second grandbaby. And I am typing away, getting ready to shower, hung over as hell, and wanting this fog to vanish. Or do I want it to vanish? Lucidity at point, is kind of over-rated. I rather like the loopy "not sure where I'm at at this moment or why" feeling. I suppose addicts and alcoholics hit up substances for a reason. I GET IT!!

And this is my BIGGEST PITTY PARTY to date in the 4.5 years since diagnosis. Let's sum it up-- diagnosis in January 2012 (of which my then-husband accused me of LYING about it), three stem cell transplants, hospital stays, a wicked divorce,-- stress, stress, stress. I handled it all with those two boxing gloves on. Hitting hard. Warrior. Strong, Resilient. WINNER.

Oh, Lord, let that Lizzy return soon.

Well-- I just bought a new dress and am hoping to drive into the canyons with my daughters today to get some lunch... A good sign? I hope so! And I'm really trying to focus on my future trip plans, which MYELOMA BETTER NOT TRY TO TAKE AWAY FROM ME.



Thursday, June 30, 2016

Hair, oh crazy unrecognizable hair... From baldness to THIS. To dye it, or not?

My latest via Myeloma Crowd. (Spoiler alert: I took the plunge and dyed. Is this the right decision? Who knows.)

To Dye or Not To Dye. A Million Dollar Question
BY LIZZY SMITH for Myeloma Crowd

My hair is finally growing back after many months of baldness. During the time of “no hair” I wore wigs or caps, no exceptions.

And then about 45 days post melphalan, I started seeing the first signs that my hair was growing. Hooray! Last month, we went to Costa Rica and Nicaragua and I just couldn’t wear a wig in the heat and humidity so I went natural—either the small amount of hair on my head was good enough or I wore hats to keep my scalp from burning.

And when I came back, it was still a bit chilly so hats were the simple, and most comfy, choice.

Today, I have maybe two inches of hair and I have ventured out, even among people I know, with it as is. I’ve been stopped a few times asking who does my hair. So apparently I don’t look like Cancer Girl anymore—some people think I did this on purpose. It is different than my long hair. I’ve had to start developing a new “brand” on how I see myself and how others might see me. Short hair is stronger, more angles, harsher. Ok, fine. I think it ages me but perhaps I’m just getting older,  (and I’m happy to age, because that means I’m still alive).

But… my hair is coming back all sorts of grey and I don’t like it. I desperately want to color it light blonde—like Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby.

But what is concerning me is the toxins I may be exposing myself. Pre cancer diagnosis, I colored my hair about once per month. I also got Brazilian blow-outs, which make one’s hair super silky, shiny, and straight. Did this contribute to getting multiple myeloma? When I did my first tandem stem cell transplants and my hair grew back, I colored my hair about once per month. No Brazilian blow-outs this time—I decided the toxic risks were too great. I also switched up all my haircare products, like shampoos, conditioners and hairsprays, to organic-type products. No parabens, at a minimum. There are a surprisingly great number of products that fall into this category. 

But now it’s time to decide… color or not? Grey or blonde? Are hair dyes toxic enough to cause cancer? I did a little research and found this from the American Cancer Society. Here are excerpts that summarize findings…
It’s not clear how much personal hair dye use might raise cancer risk, if at all. Most studies done so far have not found a strong link, but more studies are needed to help clarify this issue.
Most of the studies looking at whether hair dye products increase the risk of cancer have focused on certain cancers such as bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia, and breast cancer. These studies have looked at 2 groups of people:
  • People who use hair dyes regularly
  • People who are exposed to them at work
Bladder cancer: Most studies of people exposed to hair dyes at work, such as hairdressers and barbers, have found a small but fairly consistent increased risk of bladder cancer. However, studies looking at people who have their hair dyed have not found a consistent increase in bladder cancer risk.
Leukemias and lymphomas: Studies looking at a possible link between personal hair dye use and the risk of blood-related cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma have had mixed results. For example, some studies have found an increased risk of certain types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (but not others) in women who use hair dyes, especially if they began use before 1980 and/or use darker colors. The same types of results have been found in some studies of leukemia risk. However, other studies have not found an increased risk. If there is an effect of hair dye use on blood-related cancers, it is likely to be small. 
Breast and other cancers: Most studies looking at hair dye use and breast cancer have not found an increased risk. For other types of cancer, too few studies have been done to be able to draw any firm conclusions.
Many people use hair dyes, so it is important that more studies are done to get a better idea if these dyes affect cancer risk.

For me, all of this is… clear as mud. So am I going to color my hair? Well, vanity won the day.

Here I am at the salon "before."

...And after
I love it. And I’m now on a quest to find a good hair color that is non-toxic and one that my stylist will agree to try on me.

Until then, when I can't figure out what to do with it, bandanas and baseball cps rule the day.

To read the original article on Myeloma Crowd, click here.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

An email to the "other woman"

My latest via Divorced Moms. In this instance, the "other woman" needs a good bitch slap.

An Email to the "Other Woman." Fu*k You. You Deserve the Asshole
By Lizzy Smith for Divorced Moms
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June 29, 2016
635719580236003412Fotolia_85654546_XS.jpgJust last week, a friend of mine, “Becky,” received an email from the “other woman." Granted, when this woman ("June") became part of the picture, Becky and her husband, “George” were in the midst of a horrible marriage. He was addicted to prescription pain medications and he had all the personality traits and behavior of an addict—explosive outbursts, blaming, sorrow, stealing money, hiding, lying, and more. Becky and George had two young daughters and their relationship was toxic for everyone. Becky was going to file for divorce and she was getting all of her ducks in a row so she could kick George out of the house soon. She was saving money, had selected an attorney after interviewing several, she had her “single mom’s budget” carefully figured out, and she was getting emotionally prepared.

And then Becky found out that George had a profile on a dating web site. That was the final straw. Becky moved out of their home, taking the two children with her. Everyone’s life was in turmoil. The children were confused and hurt. Becky was unable to eat or sleep. And George… he had a new girlfriend already (yay for him! who needs to recover from a relationship when he can just hop into another one instead?) That's right, George had moved on in a matter of days, and he loved throwing it in Becky’s face. “See what a catch I am?” he texted her once. “I already have a new girlfriend and you will never find anyone as great as me. You’re a single mom—hahahaha.” Mature, right?

Flash forward to a week ago when June emailed Becky. June had just kicked George out of their home. She wanted sympathy and understanding from the one woman who knew her hell—Becky.
“George is a sick man,” June wrote. “I am done with him.” And June spent the next several paragraphs telling Becky of some of the horrible things George had done in their time together. He lied, used pills, stole her msedications, screamed and accused. He blamed June for his addiction. He promised to get well (but he didn’t). Gosh, this was all sounding so familiar, thought Becky. June was describing her marriage almost to a T.

She needed a couple days to process this new information. She was initially … thrilled. She felt vindicated. George wasn’t really a great man and father who was just in a bad marriage with her. George was still an addict. His behavior hadn’t changed a bit despite a new relationship. The bad marriage and divorce weren’t Becky’s fault after all, as George had tried to convince her it was. In Becky’s world, everything seemed right again.

Then Becky became angry. She had so much to say to this woman.

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Custody Transitions. Fabulous Reource for Easing Anxiety


Co-parenting. Just this word is enough to give many of us moms hives. We must cooperate, however-- and cooperating with our child's father is not only imperative, but it is in our child's best interest. After all, if the court has ordered it, if you try to impede cooperating in any way will not bode well for you.
And if you are co-parenting, this also likely means that you have some kind of shared custody arrangement with your ex. But how best to manage the transition of a child going from one parent's home to the other? This can be Hell, both for parent and child. Many parents I know say that it takes at least a day or more for the child to "settle" into their other home. Some children suffer tremendous anxiety and emotional outbursts. I know some parents who cannot even help with the custodial switches on their own-- they require a friend, family member, or someone appointed by the court to pick up or drop off a child. Don't know that a child doesn't sense this tension and that it doesn't emotionally hurt. 
So how to make that transition work best for your child? One resource is by helping a child visually understand which days are "switch" days. And, hence, today's article, which is written by Katie Bettridge, co-parenting expert and CEO of Enlightened Littles ( I think you will find this an incredibly valuable resource. Best of luck!
The Birth of Elittles. A Personal Co-Parenting Story

"The judge came to a decision. Your parenting time will begin Fridays after school and end before school on Monday mornings."

My heart sank. I couldn't speak. I couldn't breathe. Oh my god. I was the weekend parent. Of my own child. That wasn't enough. Not enough time to raise my child. Not enough time to enjoy watching him grow up.  Nothing could fill the void that I felt.  I had lost my boy. My baby.

Like many of you, I too understand the gut-wrenching heartache that often comes with sharing custody of your children.  After 10 years of co-parenting, I finally have it mastered....I think. For me the first decade was a brutal trial-and-error series of lessons that tested my very essence, patience, sanity, strength and resilience. It challenged everything I thought I knew about what it really means to be a loving parent.

From sippy cups and footsie jammies to band practice and elementary school - the years quickly flew by and somehow we found our own unique stride. There were, of course, many bumps along the way. What I found made it most difficult at the beginning was having such a young child that didn't understand the new parenting schedule. How can you expect a toddler to understand that a judge, a stranger, now dictates how often he can see each of his parents? Despite explaining many times and in many different iterations that "...both Mommy and Daddy love you so much, that we've decided to share time with you....etc.", he was still very much confused by the new parenting routine. Tortured even, starting each and every day unsure of which house he would reside in, which parent he would be with, or when to expect the stressful transfer/exchange days.

My son's confusion around the new parenting schedule was evident in his demeanor. I noticed that he seemed very anxious and stressed, which made his ability to relax into his current home difficult for him. Being too young to read or be able to interpret events on a typical written calendar, I created a Parenting Time Calendar just for him - with the use of "Mommy" and "Daddy" icons to represent which day was a "Mommy" day for him and which day was a "Daddy" day. Almost  immediately, he took to the calendar and seemed liberated by finally knowing what was  coming up for him. His little Parenting Time Calendar quickly became a mainstay in our home, and I  noticed that when he would look up at his calendar and see that it was a "Mommy" day, he could relax into my home that day knowing that there wouldn't be a stressful transfer that would interrupt the comforts of home and play for him that day. Even transfer days seemed a little less stressful for him, since he could see those days coming up for him in his week on the calendar. Since then, I've been on a mission to develop a lovingly enlightened line of tools and toys to help 'littles' understand big things. Our "My Two Homes" Co-Parenting Calendar has been invaluable to my child, and it is my greatest hope that your family can benefit from them as well.

If you end up purchasing any of the items on Katie's web site (I do NOT get a "cut", I assure you!), simply type "BLOGLOVE" at checkout for a 10% discount.

Our summer kick-off road trip! Discovering America (or at least Cody & Yellowstone)

My latest via Divorced Moms. I am so excited to start our summer with my daughters. One more amazing memory-creator.

Chucking It All, Roadtripping & Accumulating Memories
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June 23, 2016
635229737255011709Fotolia_42653616_XS.jpgI have written about this before but I promise you this: road trips ROCK. I used to HATE them. After all, who had time to drive when there was an airport nearby and I needed to get back to work.

But I have since changed my tune. When my daughters and I get in the car and start driving, and I force them to put away their electronic devices and stay awake, we have real conversations. We laugh, share stories, and talk about life. And, yes, there is the lovely downtime for the non-drivers. Taking in the scenery, listening to music, napping... And, seriously, the USA is amazing. There are fascinating places in almost every corner of every state and if you are flying over them (or skipping a trip completely), you will miss out.

And so it goes that my daughters and I are packing up and leaving town for several days. We are following my best friends, Julie and Shane, up to Cody, Wyoming and Yellowstone. We will hike, float rivers, perhaps go to a rodeo (I haven't decided yet if I can stomach one), and check out the Buffalo Bill Museum. Serious bonding and exploring time with my children and best friends. I am really excited. When we are done, the girls and I are driving home. Julie, Shane and their children are continuing on. They are driving across the United States in a quest to see as much of the country over the summer as possible. Their itinerary leaves me green with envy. Neither Julie or Shane are wealthy. They are school teachers so they have time. And they made some HUGE life-changing decisions to make this happen. I'll let you hear Julie tell it from her own lips (or, in this case, fingertips)...

Our Homeless Summer
We are off!  It doesn't seem real yet. I mean, I am driving and heading toward Utah but it doesn't seem like I am going to be gone for the next two months. Everyone keeps asking where I am going to live when I get home.  I don't know! For real, I DON'T KNOW. What I do know is that I will be living at Lizzy's in Utah for the next four nights and then in Cody, Wyoming. I have an idea where I will be "living" beyond that but I prefer not to think so far in advance. Right now is plenty enough to handle. One day at time. :)

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